Producer to Owner
Two architects worked for 15 years designing multi-unit residential properties for multi-million dollar architectural firms. Motivated by the Great Recession, they decided to strike out on their own, leveraging excellent experience in design, client relationships, zoning, building codes and construction contractors.
They were the classic entrepreneur-producers, who thoroughly understood their product and their customer – and who had never run a business.
- Cultural norms were developed. “I” became the pronoun used when speaking of effort, responsibility, and pride in quality work. “We” was the pronoun to use when speaking of design and product.
- A Specific Client focus. The owners decided that budget-driven complex projects best leveraged the firm’s differentiating expertise, and altered hiring specifications accordingly.
- Staff transformed into a TEAM. Rather than being extensions of the owners to produce more work, skills within the office were systematically recognized, leveraged, and celebrated to enhance the Team’s performance. By extension, this included a recognition of when staff changes needed to be made – and having the courage to do so promptly.
- Developed an understanding that protecting the business is the highest priority. It is the business, after all, that provides for the owner’s families, the Team’s families, and that provides value-added services to clients which enhance their lives, businesses, and properties.
- A niche was identified. KOA now serves budget-driven clients with larger-scale projects, further differentiating the firm and its unique value proposition.
The two owners met once a month in private meetings in which a specific business issue was tackled. As specific issues were resolved, the business developed momentum bringing in new clients and new types of business. With each iteration, it became increasingly easy to solve new problems as the owners built a corporate culture that differentiated what mattered to their clients (“signal”) from what was distracting and not helping build business (“noise”).